Posted on February 12, 2019
City officials also issue reminders about 2020 Census
By Tia Lyons
El Dorado City officials are responding to a call by Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer to schedule a series of town hall meetings to help educate the public about city government.
Smith-Creer has asked city council members to begin scheduling a series of town halls, one per month for each of the city’s four wards, starting in March with Ward 1.
Not only would the meetings provide information about policies and procedures of city government and the functions of the various city departments, but the town halls would also allow El Dorado residents to meet their respective council members and other city officials and city department heads, including the director of public works and the police and fire chiefs, the mayor has said.
Ward 1 council members Mike Rice and Billy Blann have set a tentative date of March 14 for the first town hall.
The aldermen said they are considering the Union County Fairgrounds, the polling place for Ward 1, as the location for the meeting.
Council Member Judy Ward said she and fellow Ward 2 Council Member Vance Williamson are planning a town hall meeting in April for their constituents.
“We’ve had these meetings before in the (SouthArk Library Auditorium). We’re going to get with them on their schedule," she said.
Council members Willie McGhee and Andre Rucks, both of whom represent Ward 3, said they are also considering the polling site for their ward — St. James Baptist Church, 608 Martin Luther King — as the location for their town hall in May.
Ward 4 council member Dianne Hammond said the fourth town hall will be held in June at Morning Star Baptist Church, 2506 N. College.
Hammond and Council Member Paul Choate represent Ward 4.
Council members said additional details about the town halls are forthcoming.
Smith-Creer reiterated that the meetings are for informational purposes.
“These will not be gripe sessions. It’s so that people will know city processes and procedures, so people will know where to go to get things done and learn how to handle business in city government,” Smith-Creer said.
Council Member Willie McGhee pointed to another item that can be discussed during the town hall meetings.
“The 2020 (U.S.) census is really a big issue. I think on the last one we dropped the ball and I think there are more people in El Dorado than were counted in the last census,” McGhee said.
He urged the council to do its part in encouraging El Dorado residents to participate in the upcoming census.
“This needs to be mentioned at every city council meeting and during the community forums,” McGhee said.
“We need to let the citizens know that they don’t have to be afraid to fill out the forms,” he continued. “They’re not trying to get into your personal business but count how many heads are in the house.”
The council has formed a Complete Count Committee to provide leadership and community support and to organize community outreach efforts in preparation of the 2020 Census.
Efforts began last fall to create the committee at the behest of the U.S. Census Bureau, who has asked communities across the nation to assemble the committees to help ensure as accurate a Census count as possible.
Smith-Creer said she was asked to serve on the committee prior to winning the mayoral race in the General Election last November.
The U.S. Census recommended a minimum of seven members, but former Mayor Frank Hash called for a committee of at least twice that size in order to reach every segment of the community.
Last October, Hash said the committee would need to ramp up its efforts at the first of the year.
Smith-Creer agreed, saying recently, “We need to go ahead and move on that because it’ll be here before you know it.”
The U.S. Census Bureau has said that Complete Count Committee members should represent a cross-section of the community, including state, local or tribal agencies; schools/ colleges; faith-based institutions; community organizations; nonprofit organizations; local businesses; local media; and special housing groups.
In 2010, the city’s population was listed at 18,884. A follow-up count in 2012 placed the number at 18,491.
The most recent population estimate is 18,030, a number that added El Dorado to a list of the top 10 Arkansas cities to lose the most population between 2010 and 2017.
City officials and other community leaders have stressed the importance of an accurate Census county for El Dorado, which has experienced a decline in population over the past several decades.
The amount of general revenue funds that are “turned back” from the state to cities and counties are often based on population.
Turnback funds are generated through sales tax and special revenues and are used to provide essential public services, including law enforcement and fire protection; street and highway maintenance; solid waste services, etc.
Smith-Creer said city officials needed to review the list of members who agreed to serve on the Complete Count Committee, contact the members and schedule a meeting to formulate a plan for community outreach.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.